"Three halves" enough for Giants to take top spot
Soaring house prices, traffic bottlenecks and an underachieving basketball team, it's no wonder Aucklanders are always whining.
The Mike Pero Nelson Giants completed a convincing road trip in Otara on Sunday afternoon with a 101-91 national basketball league victory over the Waitakere SuperCity Rangers. It was Nelson's second win in three games against the Rangers and vaulted them, at least until later on Monday, into sole possession of first place on the Bartercard NBL table.
Nelson had earlier turned around a tough stretch with a win in Manawatu on Friday. While that was pleasing, Sunday's victory over the stacked stable in Auckland almost elicited an admission from Nelson coach Tim Fanning that his team are in a good spot a month out from the playoffs.
The better of the two performances came in Palmerston North but, once the Giants shook off a lethargic first half, they dominated the Rangers, too.
"I'd say we played three good halves out of four on this trip," Fanning said. "Neither team played the way they were capable of in the first half in Auckland but we shook that off and went well after that."
The Giants outscored Waitakere by 57-43 after the main break, including a 29-19 fourth quarter, to post their ninth win in 12 games. Waitakere dropped to 8-5 with the loss.
As was the case on Friday, the Giants, who had appeared on the brink of splintering as they limped through early May, were united and played a compelling brand of team basketball.
"When this group plays together, we are capable of some really good basketball," Fanning said. "We had a sleepy start today [Sunday] but, once we started to move the ball around and play for each other, we looked strong."
Mckenzie Moore ended up as Nelson's leading scorer with 25 on efficient eight-of-13 shooting, while there were handy helpings from Josh Duinker (23), Phill Jones (19) and DeRonn Scott (19 and six rebounds).
Scott's performance will give the young guard a real lift. Fanning said his game was active and aggressive, as he pushed the tempo in the second half.
"You know, it's a game where I'm reluctant to point to any individual," he said. "The starters all gave us a good second half and then we got things off the bench that might not show in the stats, but certainly add up when you win a tough game.
"It felt like Sam [Dempster] was the only guy rebounding for us in the first half, Ali [Granger] was being Ali and drew an unsportsmanlike foul out of Dillon Boucher and Bronson [Beri], man, he's hustling up and down the floor, getting his hands on the loose ball ... That is what is going to help us over this last month, getting bits and pieces from everyone."
The Giants were outrebounded yet again, giving them something to work on before the Taranaki Mountain Airs come to town this Saturday, but their transition defence and unselfish ball movement were hallmarks of their weekend wins.
"We've not been good in our transition defence and I take responsibility for not stressing that enough earlier, but it was a focus this week and we did a great job of stopping two teams who really like to push the ball, a great job," Fanning said.
Now they are firmly back in the playoffs mix, the Giants will aim to keep building on their improved form. Fanning said no-one was ready to relax after the weekend.
"Great teams have great enemies," he said. "Wellington have taught us a lesson a number of times now so that's where we need to be.
"We go back to work knowing that we need to get a lot better before that final four but I see us taking a step each week through this last month, that's our aim."
Mike Pero Nelson Giants 101 (M Moore 25, J Duinker 23, D Scott 19, P Jones 19, M Vukona 6, S Dempster 5, A Granger 4) Waitakere Rangers 91 (J Cadee 26, T Garlepp 25, R Te Rangi 20, C Frank 11, H Allen 4, D Boucher 2, P Lenden 2, J Bloxham 1).
Quarter scores: 1Q 16-20, HT 44-48, 3Q 72-72, FT 101-91.